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Council U-turn on youth centres

Youth centres such as the one in Scalloway have been thrown a lifeline - Photo: Peter Johnson Partnership

YOUTH CENTRES and clubs across the isles have been thrown a lifeline for the foreseeable future after Shetland Islands Council agreed to keep funding community groups.

The council will now ask Shetland Charitable Trust to reconsider its previous decision to stop giving grants to youth centres and sports groups from 2016 onwards.

The SIC’s development committee agreed on Thursday to budget £80,000 a year as part of a new ‘Support to Community Facilities’ grant.

The money, which needs to be approved by the policy and resources committee, will go towards the running costs of facilities such as youth centres, youth clubs and community sports organisations.

It is something of a U-turn after the council previously announced it would close a number of community grant aid schemes from the end of March next year, leaving a number of youth centres across the isles threatened with closure.

The development committee heard from the council’s external funding officer Michael Duncan that consultations showed “loud and clear that groups managing community facilities were struggling the most”.

Council leader Gary Robinson said the issue had been a “very difficult problem” for the council, but stressed the charitable trust had been “premature” in withdrawing their funding.

The council agreed to write to the trust to ask them to reconsider their decision to drop funding in the area, which previously amounted to nearly £55,000 a year, and deem it an existing grant bid.

Councillor Frank Robertson agreed, adding that the trust “hastily removed” its funding.

When asked for a response, trust chairman Bobby Hunter didn’t rule out that the organisation could perform its own U-turn.

“We stopped our funding as a result of the council stopping the scheme, so I have no comment to make,” he said.

“[Reconsidering the decision] would be a matter for trustees – I can’t possibly speak for them.”

Sonia Inkster from Scalloway Youth Centre, who attended the meeting, said she was “absolutely delighted” by the news.

The centre is set to maintain its funding from the council, which currently stands at around £11,500 a year following a 25 per cent cut given to centres and clubs in 2014.

“All youth centres will benefit from this and be able to keep their doors open.

“It will be a standstill budget for the next financial year, so we’ll probably get the same as what we received this year. I think all youth centres should be able to work within their means.”

Inkster added that the isles’ youth centres are “really disappointed” by the charitable trust’s decision to close their funding.

Ten sports facilities, including Delting Football Club and Whalsay Golf Club, and eleven youth facilities are eligible for the grant.

The community groups are also being encouraged to continue to “seek out efficiencies” and “diversify activities” in order to maximise “income generation opportunities”.

The grant scheme will be reviewed in three years.

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